It bears repeating: triangulation is one of my favourite language learning methods, and one I recommend to anyone who has at least one other foreign language already and is looking to add a new dimension to their polyglot journey.
For newcomers to the technique, it’s certainly worth going back over what triangulation is, how it works, and why it can be more effective than learning through English. I’ll also share some of my personal favourite resources for triangulation, covering various language pairs and levels. (You knew it would come to back to books eventually!)
What is triangulation?
Triangulation is a language learning method that uses one of your stronger foreign languages to learn a new one, bypassing English. For example, if you already know French, you can use French as your base language to learn German through French materials like books, podcasts, and courses.
How does triangulation work?
Triangulation works by leveraging your existing knowledge of a foreign language to acquire a new one. By using a foreign language as your base, you activate both languages in your brain, creating connections between them. This can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and comprehension skills in both languages simultaneously. You can also benefit from the exposure to different cultures and perspectives that each language offers, without looking through the anglophone lens.
Why is triangulation more effective than learning through English?
Triangulation can be more effective than learning through English for several reasons:
- It can reduce the cognitive load and interference that English may cause when learning a new language. By avoiding English, you can eliminate the need to translate everything into your native language and instead focus on the meaning and context of the words and sentences in the target languages.
- It reduces the ‘thinking in English’ aspect of language use, reducing the need to translate from your native language as you speak in real time.
- It can increase your motivation and confidence as a language learner. By using a foreign language as your base language, you challenge yourself and prove that you are capable of learning multiple languages without working solely in English. You can also enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your progress in both languages at the same time.
- It can enhance your linguistic awareness and sensitivity. By comparing and contrasting two foreign languages, you can notice the similarities and differences in their structures, sounds, expressions, and cultures. You can also discover new aspects of each language that you may have overlooked or taken for granted when learning through English.
What are some of the best resources for triangulation?
If you are interested in trying triangulation, here are some of the best resources I’ve found for various language pairs and levels in my own sights:
- Petit vocabulaire actuel allemand. This is a French-German vocabulary book that covers over 3000 words and phrases in various topics, such as politics, economy, society, culture, etc. It also includes exercises and tests to help you practice and review your knowledge.
- Assimil : Le Turc Sans Peine. This is a French-Turkish course that follows the Assimil method of natural assimilation. It consists of 100 lessons that introduce you to the basics of Turkish through dialogues, exercises, notes, and audio recordings.
- Langenscheidt Komplett-Grammatik Italienisch. This is a German-Italian reference book that covers the most important words and grammar rules for learners of Italian. It also provides tips and explanations on how to use them correctly and effectively. Langenscheidt, like Assimil, has a long an proud heritage of producing respected foreign language guides.
- Stein på stein: Norsk-tysk ordliste. This is a Norwegian-German word list that accompanies a textbook for intermediate Norwegian learners. It contains about 2500 words and expressions used in the textbook, along with translations in German. Like Finnish and Swedish vocabulary guides in similar second language series, these Norwegian guides are available in many of the languages of immigration to Norway, including Polish, Ukrainian and Urdu.
For other language pairings, it’s hard to beat the Assimil Sans Peine and Ohne Mühe ranges. These feature many titles using French and German as the base languages respectively. They’re available in other languages too, although less comprehensively. That said, it’s definitely worth hunting them down in Italian and Spanish if the language pairs suit.
In any case, I hope this post has given you some inspiration to give triangulation a try. If you have any experiences or resource tips to share, please let us know in the comments.
And happy triangulating!